If the size of the text in this page is too small, please either turn javascript on or adjust the default text size of your browser.
MV Home Scientists & Discovery home
Home Chemicals Reactions dna Lightning Rainbows Light Gravity Radioactivity Scientists

Other Lights in the Sky

Raindrops and fog are not the only kind of water in the atmosphere. In very high clouds, water can freeze to form ice crystals. Ice crystals bend light in very different ways to water drops. This creates a lot of interesting lights in the sky. Different kinds of lights are produced by ice crystals pointing in different directions.

These lights are normally seen when very high clouds, called cirrostratus clouds, are between you and the Sun. Cirrostratus clouds like this cause these lights in the sky. Often, however, the clouds are so faint they are invisible.

Sometimes a bright light can be seen on one - or both - sides of the Sun. These lights can be so bright that they can look like a second sun. This is why they are called "Mock Suns", although their scientific name is parhelia.

Sometimes a ring, or halo, can be seen around the Sun.

The pillar of light seen above the setting Sun is also caused by ice crystals bending and bouncing light.

There are a large number of arcs of light that have been seen and described. However you are unlikely to be able to see more than a few of these arcs at the same time.

Complex halo display
magnifyComplex halo display

Two parhelia
magnifyParhelia, or "mock suns".


Twenty-two degree halo around the Sun
magnifyTwenty-two degree halo around the Sun


Sun pillar above the setting Sun
magnifySun pillar above the setting Sun
© Museum Victoria Australia